Make Your Cash Register Ring for Christmas

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Holy reindeer — there’s only 65 days till Christmas! I know what you’re thinking: Why the heck is he blogging about Christmas now? If the Christmas bells you hope to hear are in your cash register, now is the time to recognize it will take more advance planning than ever before.

We will see Halloween with very limited trick or treating andThanksgiving without the usual family travels. If there’s even a Black Friday it will be without steady crowds of early bargain hunters. And December will be void of office parties and normal in-person gift-giving.

Thank you, pandemic.

Retail experts essentially agree this year’s Christmas outlook is unpredictable at best, while a number of economists are predicting little growth or none whatsoever compared the previous years. So, if you want to bring in some cash for Christmas, it’s time to get to work.

How do you cash in? As I heard the late Zig Ziglar, my favorite author, business coach and speaker, once say: “If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time!” It’s clear you need a plan and offer products that fit the targets.

First, study your current customer list — they are the most likely to respond. If you’ve been attentive to your customers (always a good idea), you know how they enjoy their boats, likely their family make-up and more. It’s called creating a segment-specific email list.

Customer knowledge will guide you in making special Christmas offers that could ring your sales bells. For example, if they’re water sports oriented, specials might be the latest applicable accessories that could fit those on their Christmas-giving list. Or, fishing families could be enticed to buy gifts for the anglers in their midst, and so on.

Timing is everything, so consider creating a series of offers for customers over a period of time leading well into December. Indeed, you’ve probably already seen Amazon and others promoting “Black Friday Deals Today!” Follow the leaders. Surveys indicate consumers will be buying earlier this year, starting in early November; in today’s climate, offering customers Christmas deals starts well before Thanksgiving.

Perhaps offer a few selected specials, one each week. Call it the “Twelve Weeks of Christmas” campaign. Make it more fun by adding an occasional weekend splash sale! A significant discount on popular item(s) can draw shoppers from within your existing customer base.

In addition, it’s even appropriate to reward very loyal customers with special offers, such as discounts not available to others. It indicates that customers are special, and experts say such a message is difficult to resist.

Your website can be a holiday sales winner, too. Making small additions (no major overhaul) could improve prospect and customer engagement. Additions should simply reflect the Christmas holiday, and visitors can just click on it, sign up, and receive all the coming Christmas gift ideas.

Perhaps you can hold a holiday in-store customer event — safety limits, scheduling and cleaning protocols must be considered. For example, a dealer in Ohio traditionally has a three-day Thanksgiving weekend holiday event with success. It draws mostly existing customers, has sold some boats and does a brisk business in the accessory department. The staff even wraps the gifts when possible! The showroom featured boats with some decorations, Christmas background music playing and some light refreshments.

Websites, social media and in-store promotions are all good, but the gold standard is still email which is also the easiest to work with. It’s reportedly still the most effective way to impact your customers. That’s because a whopping 91 percent of consumers likely use email . It also allows you to segment customers based on a variety of interest factors.

If you’re worried about annoying your customers with too many email messages, try weekly department-specific offers or even biweekly. Your service department could offer a coupon for some maintenance function at a discount. Sales could have a featured model at a reduced price or have special equipment added. And, of course, the accessory department will have an abundance of possibilities.

Finally, sell those gift certificates! Selling these leading up to Christmas time gives your customers another great option for gifts, easily obtained via email. My kids all over the country send me gift certificates to my favorite marine and/or tackle shops. I love ‘em — the kids and the certificates, that is.

And, there’s a kick-back for the businesses — they’re making an immediate cash sale. Then,

after Christmas, I’ll be cashing in those certificates and that seems to always lead me to buy more stuff beyond the certificate’s value.

Remember, boat dealers are primarily small businesses, and for small business owners the most important thing to is to always be marketing, holidays and all.

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